Two weeks ago, the Houston Rockets' relationship with rookie Royce White hit very hard times. White, who suffers from anxiety disorder, lashed out at the franchise on Twitter for not supporting his efforts to deal with his condition. However, those methods included what the team calls unexcused absences from games and practices, as well as an ongoing failure to accept his assignment to the team's D-League affiliate.
The situation has gotten no better. White continues to claim improper treatment from the Rockets in regular tweets, and he's also criticized various media reports and commentaries, including one from Yahoo!'s own Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Rockets have been relatively quiet during that same period. On Monday, as part of an interview with Slate.com's Hang Up and Listen podcast, general manager Daryl Morey spoke about the current state of the team's relationship with White. Here's the transcription (via PBT):
We think Royce is an elite talent — top five talent in this last draft, which was very deep. Obviously if we're getting him at 16 in the draft, there's going to be something wrong, or something that's a gamble with the player, and really you're just choosing the gamble. Maybe they've got an injury history. Maybe they've got a particular part of their game that could be an Achilles' heel that would make them fail. Maybe they've never gone against that level of competition. So there's going to be something wrong, so you're really just picking among things that are potentially going to derail that player and which ones you're most comfortable with.
Royce was someone who played every game at Iowa State, played it well. So even with his issues, he showed that he is very functional. We knew going in that potentially there could be issues and right now obviously things are bumpy at this point, I'd say, but you know it takes a little time for him to get going at the various stops he's had in his career to this point. We're trying to work things through with Royce, and hopeful that we can. That's sort of the current state.
In short, the Rockets still believe in White's talent and hope that he can return to the team and start working on becoming an important part of their long-term plans. They haven't given up on him, because they realize his career might progress at a different rate than those of other players. It's a sensible approach to a very complicated situation. In their cost-benefit analysis, White's talent still outweighs all else.
Of course, Morey's comments also give the sense that the Rockets aren't going to make any more concessions to accomodate White. They're willing to help him as best they can, but they also need to see movement from White that shows he's willing to fulfill a few common expectations for NBA players. Both sides have to engage in the give and take for the relationship to work.
However, the longer this situation fails to change, the more likely it becomes that the Rockets will consider White's talent less important than the fact that they're seeing no production from one of 15 players they're allowed to have on the roster. White's leverage will decrease with every passing day that the Rockets don't get results. And while he has the right to desire a positive work environment, he also chose to enter a business that needs certain things from its employees. The paying party typically holds the power in these situations. If he can't do the job, he might not have it much longer.